Friday, 18 October 2013

Juan of the Dead - more zombie subtext than you can shake a stick at.

During a zombie apocalypse Juan, a hustling Cuban, sets up a business with a couple of unlikelies and charges Havana's local residents for cleaning up their undead problem which clashes with winning his daughter's respect.

Director Alejandro Brugués delivers a comedy injected zombie affair, which subtexts the political and social issues of Cuba and highlights the irony of the zombie mythos, including a stab, fast and slow walking dead films. It reminiscent in part of [Rec] (2007), Shaun of the Dead (2004) in tone and The Dead (for distinctive atmosphere).

Alexis Díaz de Villegas is not your stereotype looking hero and plays the everyman Juan perfectly. Jorge Molina is Lazaro his overweight sidekick who steals some of the scenes. Notable is Andros Perugorría as the hero type who is also the love interest of Juan's zombie kicking daughter Camila (Andrea Duro).

There are some homages thrown in to other virus flicks. The special make-up effects are excellent but the digital ones are a mixed bag, that said, the collapsing tower block and the helicopter crash are worthy of note.

It captures the unscrupulous, non-sequential social issues - especially murders, this may turn some viewers off as the characters can be quite unsavory at times. Nevertheless Juan de los Muertos is a Spanish language film (and writer Alejandro Brugués even manages to jibe at the language differences in an amusing underground car park segment)which has it's own identity and atmosphere due to real locations captured wonderfully by cinematography Carles Gusi which gives it its own feel.

Those looking for social commentary in the vein of Romero's dead films will be overloaded. If you're looking for plenty of in your face blood, decapitations, head bashings and zombie comedy action this also ticks all the boxes.

As a side note keep watching for the comic credits that finish off the narrative. Overall, Juan of the Dead will have you thinking about Cuba long after the credits roll.